Friday, March 22, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Cyprus is the latest member of the European Union that needs a bailout. The banks in Cyprus were hurt partially by the losses they took on Greek debt that was wiped out in that country's collapse; but primarily by the poor lending practices of the banks in Cyprus. The Cypriot banks have also been hurt by a deepening recession. So the European Union and the European Monetary Union, the EU's central bank, began to construct a bailout package. This is not the first bailout package that has been crafted by the leaders in Brussels. But this proposed bailout package was significantly different from others in that all depositors in Cypriot banks are having a portion of their accounts confiscated to fund the rescue plan. Under the proposal, savers that have less that $100,000 Euros in their bank accounts would have 6.75% of their account arbitrarily taken by the government of Cypress, while those that have more than $100,000 Euros would see 9.9% of their account taken to fund the bailout. No questions asked, it would just be removed from the account. This unprecedented action is not only mind boggling but immoral. The average citizen is not being asked to fund the bailout, they have been told they have not choice and their money will be taken. As expected, it started a run on the banks in Cyprus, which were promptly closed by the government. Now, it is all too easy to dismiss this as as the actions of the European Union and it affects a small nation that has dug their own hole. All of that is true, but the dangerous precedent here is that the government is coercing the public into paying for the financial sins of the elite or the few. While this is occurring halfway around the world, the arrogance of the ruling elite toward the governed is appalling. And it requires all of us to be ever vigilant about the actions of the government.

Mornings and I don't see eye to eye, mostly because I don't want to open mine.

There has been much heated and angry debate about guns and gun control recently, brought to the forefront of our thinking by the tragedy in Newtown, Ct. One side says that all guns should be banned, or at least "assault weapons" and high capacity magazines. The other side says that banning one type of weapon is just a slippery slope to revoking the Second Amendment and confiscating all weapons. One can argue passionately for either side, but I would ask you to consider this: the debate is not really about guns, but instead a debate about the role of government. It is a cultural debate. One side truly and passionately believes that government is a force for good and knows what is best for each individual citizen. The other side believes, equally passionately, that government is intrusive, a necessary evil, and should be kept as small as possible. Vice President Joe Biden recently said on the PBS show "NewsHour" that banning assault weapons would do little to stop crime. While he is honest, his view is telling. The laws that are currently on the books do not work effectively, but it is still desirable to implement more laws to control guns and limit gun rights. In fact the National Academy of Science found that gun control laws have no measurable effect on gun violence rates. And this is understandable because criminals do not obey the existing laws, and they will not obey new laws. Sandy Hook Elementary was a "gun free" zone. And that didn't stop Adam Lanza. And that slippery slope? Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill) was recently asked if the proposed assault weapons ban was "just the beginning". She replied, "Oh absolutely. I mean, I am against handguns." And she is not alone in that sentiment. Meaningful discussion on this highly charged issue will be difficult to move forward, because underneath the gun debate is a deep cultural divide.

Sometimes, the autocorrect on my smart phone can be my worst enema.

Next year begins the full implementation of socialized medicine in this country, known as Obamacare. And health insurers are warning that health insurance premiums for small business and individuals are going to increase sharply. Starting next year, insurers are prohibited from refusing to sell coverage or setting premiums based on an individual's health history, and their ability to set rates based on the age of the insured will be severely limited. This means that younger, healthier workers will most likely see their rates rise to subsidize the coverage that will be provided for older and sicker individuals. How much? Last month, United Health Group, the nations largest carrier said that premiums for consumers buying individual plans could increase as much as 116%, and small business plans could increase 25-50%. Aetna said that rates could increase 55% on average. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina said individual premiums could rise 40-50%. Some of these increases could be offset by subsidies available to some individuals and families, but the fact remains that premiums are going up markedly. This is what happens when the government interferes with the marketplace. And all of us will suffer.

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but I can't afford that many iPods.

And that, my friends, is my view.

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